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Saturday, February 1, 2014

You leaving money on the table?

Imagine this:  A large department store, festively arrayed windows, beckoning you inward.  As you step across the threshold of the store, you are greeted by a personal shopper, specifically appointed to guide you through your shopping journey.  Each step forward expands the possibilities afforded one who shops in this overwhelmingly awesome store, but nothing quite matches the amazing announcement you receive of everything you acquire within being totally paid for by someone else!  As you peruse the departments, you are encouraged to expand your horizons and embrace new experiences. The most intriguing department beckons you inward, finding you settling down to enjoy the beauty and serenity of this infinitely peace-filled room.  There you come face-to-face with someone who promises wisdom beyond your own learning and direction for all your future decisions.  Now, answer me this:  How many of us would actually "leave money on the table", so to speak, and just turn our backs on this privilege?  Dare I say, it may be a whole lot more than we would think!  Christ beckons us in - he leads us into places we could not experience outside of his grace - and he has paid the price in full already. Yet, so many simply don't embrace what he offers, choosing to shop at the local five and dime, footing the bill all by themselves!  

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.  (Colossians 1:9-12 MSG)

Wise minds and spirits, attuned to HIS will, are just two of the privileges afforded by entering into what God has provided for all of us.  You see, we have all received the invitation into this phenomenal privilege, but an invitation must be acknowledged and acted upon to be of any value.  The invitation promises entry to any who would come, but some will think they still have to earn their invitation.  Maybe some feel like they could never deserve such an honor, or accept such a privilege.  That perception would be correct - we could never deserve the honor, but it is extended anyway.  If we truly understand how God's invitation works, we might just step into what he has prepared for us with a little more pep in our step.  You see, he doesn't ask us to begin to "work" at anything until after we have entered into relationship with him.  It is as we discover how he works that we enter into this work - operating not in our strength, but in the "glory-strength" God alone can give.

I know a department store is not an apt illustration to describe what God has done for us in the sacrifice of his Son, but it comes close to describing what we "leave on the table" anytime we choose to ignore any facet of his grace. If the price has already been paid in full for the shiny new refrigerator or big screen TV, how many of us would actually leave the thing already paid for on the shelf in the store?  Not too many!  We'd beat a path to the store, rent a truck to deliver it if necessary, and then enjoy it to the fullest once we got it home.  In fact, we'd invite others over to show them, telling anyone who would listen about what we have "come into".  Why is it so different with the things God promises and extends to us in his grace?  We are timid about accepting them, quick to discount our worthiness in receiving them, and even leave them sitting "on the shelf" at times.  

When we enter into what God has prepared for us, we come to a place of settled peace - just like when we are ushered into that peace-filled room in our hypothetical department store.  In that place of settled peace, something happens in our minds and hearts - there is a "fine-tuning" which occurs.  When peace surrounds us, mindsets change.  When peace indwells us, motivations change.  Anytime mindset and motivation change, action changes.  We stop relying upon the strength we can muster up and begin to live in the strength he provides.  When we embrace grace, and it embraces us, strength is exchanged.  Don't believe me?  Embrace someone today and see if it doesn't just give you a little "kick" in your mood.  Contact WITH the one we embrace results in an EXCHANGE of something we may not be able to describe, but it "fills our tank" with something we might describe as "knowing we are loved". We live with empty tanks so much, barely getting by on the fumes, that we don't remember the delight and peace of "filled tanks".

God's invitation isn't to just fill our tanks once, but continually.  His purpose is to engage us in his work, not because we feel an obligation to him, but because we delight in being engaged in what brings him delight.  We work alongside him, allowing him to fill us over and over again - not just to capacity, but to overflowing.  To live by any other means is to "leave money on the table"!  Just sayin!